SAD in Business – Helping Staff Beat the Winter Blues

by | Dec 14, 2023 | All Articles, Employee Engagement

How businesses and their employees can tackle SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and beat the “winter blues”.

The Christmas holidays and festive season are just around the corner – and for most of us it’s a busy, exciting and engaging time with lots to enjoy and be happy about. 

For some people though, the winter months feel tortuous and are a real struggle. In fact, SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – is a recognised condition which affects an estimated 2 million people in the UK. 

What is SAD?

There is a distinction to be made here. People with SAD are not simply people who don’t like the cold and the dark of the winter months. 

For people with SAD, the symptoms are varied and complex – and can often be extremely debilitating. From struggles with sleep and getting up, to lathargy during the daytime and becoming socially withdrawn. 

Research continues into the causes and effects of the condition, but there are certain known factors which have an impact on all of us during the winter months – albeit to somewhat varying degrees.

The impact the winter months have on us physically and mentally

Personally, I don’t know of many people who would admit that they love getting up for work in the dark and coming home in the dark. Or those cold winter mornings, scraping the ice off the car, or slip-sliding along the pavements and up the steps to the train/tram platforms.

But both physically and mentally, the winter months are proven to take their toll on many of us – even if we don’t actually realise.

The reduced levels of vitamin D from there being less sunlight and the disruptive patterns of less daylight to the human brain – which in turn affects seratonin levels (which influences moods) – all have an impact on how we can physically perform in our day-to-day functions. 

And this includes in the workplace. 

The onus on businesses to support their staff.

During the winter months, many businesses often see a slight downturn in performance and productivity.

Absenteeism is known to creep up too. 

In the past, businesses may have taken the approach of cracking the whip, and twisting harder, squeezing every last ounce of effort from their staff. Some may still do this of course. 

But businesses are discovering this approach – apart from anything else – is counterproductive.

Instead, there are pro-active steps businesses can take to help their employees – and things that employees can do themselves – through the winter months.

Here are just some of the ways to tackle the “winter blues”. 

 

9 Ways to Achieve Better Well-being This Winter

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Make time for physical activity

Making time for physical activity helps in so many ways. From the obvious increased health benefits – which in turn has a positive mental impact – to helping with sleep patterns and sharpening concentration levels – physical activity, especially if it’s outdoors in the fresh air, could play a really important role in your well-being this winter.

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Improve the amount - and quality - of your sleep

A stable sleeping pattern can help the body recharge in the correct way – improving energy levels in the daytime. Just small concessions on things like avoiding heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine and the dreaded “social media scroll” before bed can enhance the likelihood of a better night’s sleep. Taking exercise too during the day can also help.

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Increase the access to natural light

Whilst in some cases it isn’t always possible, getting more access to natural light – whether it’s on a dinner break or nipping outside for a 10 minute break, or pulling those blinds up in the office – anything that allows what little light we have into our lives during the winter months can make a difference to performance.

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Make tweaks to your diet

It is easy to slip into “comfort food” mode during the winter, but the reality is, your diet can play a significant part in your physical and mental wellbeing. By integrating a nutritious blend of foods packed with Omega 3 fatty acids – fatty fish, certain seeds, and walnuts – you can help improve your mood. Healthy carbs such as wholegrain and lean protein, coupled with fresh fruit and veg can help increase energy levels. Employers can also help their staff in the workplace by making readily-available healthy snacks.

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Greater flexibility and more movement in the workplace

During the winter months, employers who show greater flexibility in breaks and encouraging movement for their staff within the workplace, are far more likely to see positive returns. Whether you integrate these ideas as part of team challenges – or just make the provisions – the benefits will be felt by all.

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Ensure you have a positive work/life balance

Whilst it is important that employees take part in the things they enjoy away from work, employers have a part to play too. By ensuring their staff aren’t over-worked and enjoying a fair work/life balance – it minimises the risk of burn-out. It is sometimes difficult for businesses to lose sight of this if the winter season is a busy one – but, it cannot be understated the importance of taking the right steps to help staff be productive. 

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Employer awareness of their staff performance and behaviour

Employers should already be making provisions to identify dips in performance and observe behaviours, but during the winter, could there be other factors which are at play? Make sure you provide a platform for your employees – and if you work for someone and are feeling the affects, please do make it known to your employer.  

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Use online resources to help with managing mental health issues

If you are struggling, or feel you have employees who are struggling, then there are free, online resources that can be accessed to help cope with any issues having an impact. A great place to start is the staff resources section on the mind website – which you can check out here.

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Promote and/or utilise current employee well-being benefits

Many employers these days offer some employee benefits solutions which include wellbeing options. If you have access to these, they are there to be used – so please use them. If your employer – or your company – doesn’t have a employment engagement solution at the moment, then we would be more than happy to introduce you to one of our partners.

Don’t be SAD – we’re happy to help. 

The benefits of helping looking after your wellbeing – or your staff’s wellbeing – during the winter months is a worthwhile investment of time and effort. 

If you would like to find out more about the options available to support yourself or staff – or would like to speak to someone about any issues this winter, we are always here to help. 

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